In a few short days, the month of September will be upon us. As I type these words, I can physically feel my stomach flip-flopping and a knot beginning to form. What’s wrong with September? Technically … nothing. I do enjoy the last days of summer and the soon-to-be fall weather.
But my oldest daughter’s birthday and the day she died are both in the month of September. September brings up so many memories, both the good and the painful.
On September 12, my Elizabeth would have been 28 years old. What would she be doing with her life? I so often wonder. Where would she be living, what career would she have chosen? Would she be married? Would she have any children? Would she have dealt with the demons that plagued her in the last years of her life? These are all questions that will forever remain unanswered.
On September 20, we will mark the eighth anniversary of her death as well as the deaths of Amanda and Brian, two of her six roommates. Three young lives gone in an instant as the result of a fire in their old wooden duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where they were all just beginning their adult lives. So much promise … so many dreams and hopes gone in an instant.
So, what do I do? I could continue to focus on what is no longer possible … and, trust me, I do that on occasion. I think it’s necessary and I owe it to Liz. To sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened not only is a disservice to my daughter, but it is also a disservice to me. Revisiting the pain is necessary and part of my grieving process. The key, however, is only to visit, not remain stuck in it.
What is also necessary is to focus on the twenty years I had with my daughter. The times she made me laugh, made me smile, made me so mad I could hardly see straight — the good times as well as the bad. I remember that Elizabeth’s life was so much more than the way that she died. In the end, all I can do is smile because when it is all said and done, the only thing that really matters is how much we love each other. Love wins out over pain and heartache in the end.
There is a song by Green Day called, Wake Me Up When September Ends. My husband has commented that he would like nothing better than to go to sleep on August 31st and wake up on October 1st. And, even though I breathe a big sigh of relief when the calendar turns to October, I would never wish not to have September.
So in a few days, I will focus on remembering. I will honor her each and every day – in some small ways and maybe even some big ways. I will celebrate her and love her for what she is and will always be, my beloved first-born daughter. Death can never change that – nor can it erase the love that we will always share.
“It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson
Kimberly Wencl 2011